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Periodic Limb Movement Disorder

What is periodic limb movement disorder?

Periodic limb movement disorder is intermittent repetitive limb movements that occur during sleep. It usually occurs in the legs, but can also affect the arms. It is somewhat related to restless leg syndrome. It is more common in children than adults. It is defined as a high periodic limb movement index (PLM), which is how often the leg muscle is activated per hour of sleep on an overnight sleep study without the complaints of restless leg syndrome. The limb movements cause significant sleep disturbance, or difficulty in daytime functioning (mental, behavioral, physical, or social arenas). Associated features: Increased rates of mood disorders and attentional, oppositional, or behavioral challenges have been reported. In children, there is often a family history of restless leg syndrome.

What causes periodic limb movement disorder?

Genetics are implicated to some degree in families. Low iron is another possible cause for it.

How is it diagnosed?

It is diagnosed based on a visit with your provider and with findings of an increased PLM index on an overnight sleep study.

How is it treated?

It is treated the same way as restless leg syndrome. There are medications and non-medication treatments available. 


This is not specific to your child but provides general information. If you have any questions, please ask your doctor, nurse or other health care team members working with your family.

Reviewed by Sleep Center 12/2017

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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